Movie Review: Pain & Gain

Michael Bay was once a director I wouldn’t necessarily call great, but certainly fun. I enjoy The Rock, Armageddon and even the first Transformers what they were: dumb, loud fun. That Michael Bay is long gone however and has been replaced with one who seems to directly make films that can be enjoyed by both teenage boys and fun-loving movie fans alike, but strictly teenage boys. If you like racist, homophobic humor, then Pain & Gain is for you. If you like color saturation blown-out so badly that it induces a headache, then Pain & Gain is for you. If you like a film that has no focus, lacks a protagonist of any kind, can’t balance humor and drama, is too long and it makes a mockery of a real life horrific crime that happened…then Pain & Gain is definitely for you.

Pain & Gain, which stars Mark Whalberg, The Rock, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shaloub and Ed Harris, follows the real life story of three bodybuilders who seek to improve their stature by torturing and extorting a self-made millionaire. The main issue of Pain & Gain, amongst its many issues, is the lack of balance and focus. The film is spastic. It constantly pauses and throws words up on the screen like it’s Scott Pilgrim in one scene but then the music softens and it tries to be dramatic in the next. There’s no tonal balance whatsoever. I know it’s a tricky thing to accomplish when you’re trying to adapt a real life crime story but other films have tried and succeeded so there’s no real excuse. The film also has no focus because everyone is put in the forefront at one point or another and narrates a part of the film. Literally everyone. Whether it’s Whalberg or the stripper he sleeps with, everyone gets a narration. This, accompanied by the fact that the victim is a jerk and the main three guys are terrible people by torturing him, allows for no protagonist in the film and therefore no one for the audience to latch onto.

Then there’s the other issues such as humor and the look of the film. Bay shoots the film to look like a neon light and it hurts. I personally left the theater with a headache but at least Bay is keeping consistency with a look from his previous several films. The humor is almost directly from Transformers 2 in that it varies from either completely falling flat, to being racist or being homophobic. Sometimes all of the three combined even. The film does have a few bright spots however. Two performances in particular, The Rock and Rebel Wilson, are quite amusing and worked for me. Everyone else does fine with what they are given but what they’re given is garbage. The film is also incredibly too long and I was checking my watch numerous times in the last half hour.

A return to classic Michael Bay this is not. Pain & Gain is definitely childish and excessive but it has none of the humor or fun of previous good films Bay has done but instead continues his trend of bottom barrel humor, blown out cinematography and pain-inducing length. This is the worst film I’ve seen this year honestly. I’ve seen some bad films this year but none literally caused me pain like Pain & Gain did.

Score: 1/10